Wednesday, March 2, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

March 2, 2011

As I watched the celebrations in schools that topped the list of good performers in last year’s KSCE results, something got me thinking. All those young boys and girls that were either dancing or carrying their achievers shoulder high had one striking thing in common. They were modestly and decently dressed. Boys were dressed as boys should do as did the girls. I didn’t see sagging trousers or boys wearing trousers that left 50% of their buts exposed. All I saw were the children of Kenya that any family could proudly be identified with.

As I congratulate those young Kenyans that topped the charts this year and especially Maranda boys in Bondo that surprised the entire nation leaving the usual giants writhing in pain; as I congratulate one young man, John Anyul of Onjiko High School in Nyando who despite all the odds was among the top 100 in Nyanza with a mean score of over 86%, let us remember that the youth of Kenya are not as homogeneous as some of our political leaders may think. They have many challenges that differ from one region or environment to another depending on where they grow up or go to school.

Hon. Sonko Mbuvi was this week thrown out of parliament for the second time in as many weeks. This time round, he entered the august house bedecked in ear studs, the usual bling blings, dark glasses, and earphones probably listening to some ghetto rap and to cap it all; chewing some gum as Parliament was in progress.

I have no problem with Mbuvi representing Makadara constituency in Nairobi. I have no problem with Mbuvi claiming that he represents the youth of Makadara. However, I have a problem when Mbuvi begins to claim that he represents the entire spectrum of young people in Kenya because he doesn’t.

Within Nairobi’s Eastlands alone, there are so many subcultures that it would be wrong to assume that the Mathare youth would be the same as the Korogocho, Umoja or Eastleigh youth. It would even be more absurd if we assumed that young people in Kenya’s other towns, the city’s suburbs or even in rural areas would look up to Mbuvi as their role model.

Mbuvi’s culture is a copycat of the American ghetto that thrived in the 1970s among illiterate black children that dropped out of school and got involved in drugs as they developed their own sub culture. And to prove their worth, they used their music earnings to indulge in opulent materialism as a way of proving to the world that though they didn’t go to school, they could own gold chains, watches, flashy cars and mansions- symbols of success in material America.

Mbuvi must remember that the constituency that he represents is right next door to Starehe Boys and Starehe Girls centers. I challenge him to go to those schools to find out if he is a role model to these young Kenyans. Put another way, the same Eastlands has produced one of the most enduring football clubs in this country- Mathare United. The same Eastlands has produced soccer icons that are now internationally acclaimed. When you look at Mariga and Oliech with all their wealth, you don’t see exaggerated arrogant show of opulence. They may have limos, hummers and all, but you can see that they are self disciplined and are acutely aware of their backgrounds.

The difference between Mariga and Oliench on the one hand and our Makadara MP is that the former have worked extremely hard to be where they are. They have known the pain of success; that it comes with sacrifices.

Whereas Mariga and Oliech can explain the source of their fame and wealth, the same cannot be said of Hon Mbuvi alias Sonko. All we know is that he is the MP for Makadara and that he has loads of cash that he can unleash on the poor slum dwellers of Makadara from time to time to buy their votes.

As we move to the new era of democratic process, let us not allow the dignity of our institutions to be eroded and abused for the sake of unguided democratic space. Our institutions of Parliament, Judiciary and presidency must remain institutions that symbolize our sanity. There are basic institutional and unwritten laws that must protect them from wayward behavior such as those of Mbuvi and his kind.

Any young leader that yearns to be a role model for young Kenyans must strive to influence them in terms of positive ideas that can empower them to achieve beyond their dreams. The youth of this country cannot be empowered through occasional handouts and reckless show of opulence that knows no bounds.

Finally to wear dark glasses in the august house, wear studs and chew gum even as the debate is in progress is the height of backwardness that any elected MP can subject Kenyans to. In countries like Japan, such an MP would have been thrown out of parliament by his party permanently.